Lampworking is an ancient technique dating back as early as the 5th century BC. Oil fueled lamps were used to melt the glass. Today, most torches use a combination of propane or natural gas and oxygen.
Glass is melted in the flame of the torch and wound around a mandrel (a steel rod). Tools made of graphite or brass are used to shape the molten glass. Different colours of glass are layered and added to make designs. Sometimes bits of fine silver or other precious metals can be added for interest.
It can take anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour to make one bead. The larger the bead and the more intricate the design, the longer it will take.
The bead is then put into the kiln where it goes through an annealing process. This consists of raising the temperature inside the kiln to around 970 degrees F. Then after soaking for about an hour, the temperature in the kiln is slowly lowered over a few hours. This process reduces stress in the glass and gives it strength.
Even though all of my beads are kiln annealed, they are still somewhat fragile and should be handled with care.